Turning a threat into an opportunity: British American Tobacco's weakening of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products

Benoît Gomis, Allen William Andrew Gallagher, Andy Rowell, Anna B. Gilmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Previous research has outlined transnational tobacco company (TTC) efforts to undermine implementation of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products (Protocol) and evidence of ongoing TTC complicity in the illicit tobacco trade (ITT). However, the industry's views on the Protocol and role in its development are not well understood. METHODS: Systematic searching and analysis of leaked documents-approximately 15 000 from British American Tobacco (BAT) and 35 from Philip Morris International, triangulated via searches of online resources and interviews with five stakeholders across academia, international organisations, governments, civil society and the private sector. FINDINGS: Evidence indicates that after privately viewing the Protocol as a significant threat (2003), BAT worked to influence its content, while publicly signalling support for it (2007-2012), and was largely satisfied with the final text. BAT successfully pushed for a non-prescriptive text which enabled further country-level TTC influence during the Protocol's implementation phase. The final text also reflected other BAT policy preferences, including preventing outright bans on duty-free sales and intermingling, and making it difficult to sanction and hold tobacco companies accountable for ongoing involvement in the ITT. TTC representatives were present during early Protocol negotiations, despite rules against this, and BAT obtained draft texts before they were public and paid at least one delegate to support its position. CONCLUSIONS: BAT's primary interest in shaping the Protocol was to minimise its financial and legal costs for BAT while maximising potential costs to small competitors. These findings raise concern about the Protocol's ability to control the ITT, particularly given TTCs' intention to influence ongoing national implementation. An effective Protocol is vital to controlling both the ITT and ongoing tobacco industry involvement in it and, in turn, governments' ability to increase tobacco taxes and thereby save lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-49
Number of pages10
JournalTobacco Control
Volume31
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sep 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • illegal tobacco products
  • public policy
  • tobacco industry documents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Turning a threat into an opportunity: British American Tobacco's weakening of the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this